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Saddleback hopes to stay in SBC amid female pastor controversy, lead pastor says

Andy Wood
Andy Wood, lead pastor of Saddleback Church of Lake Forest, Calif., preaching a sermon in October 2022. |

Saddleback Church does not want to leave the Southern Baptist Convention over its support of female pastors, according to recently installed lead Pastor Andy Wood.

The prominent California megachurch has received increased attention for its support of female pastors, which goes against the SBC’s official stance against the ordination of women.

In comments given to the Baptist Press, which serves as the official news service for the SBC, Wood explained that “we are committed to stay in fellowship and unified with other SBC churches even when we disagree.”

“Saddleback Church has a strong commitment to the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. We believe this approach is biblical and in alignment with the teachings of the New Testament as well,” he said.

Stacie Wood
Stacie Wood of Saddleback Church preaching a sermon in October 2022. The church identifies Wood as a "pastor," even though the Southern Baptist Convention prohibits female ordination. |

Wood also told BP that his congregation believes that “pastoring and teaching are functions and spiritual gifts to be exercised in the church by both men and women.”

“The function of teaching and pastoring is not necessarily synonymous nor exclusive from the office of overseer,” he added.

Wood, who replaced pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren as leader of Saddleback, listed his wife Stacie as a “teaching pastor” on the church’s website. Additionally, earlier this month, Stacie preached a sermon at Saddleback, with her being identified as a “Teaching Pastor.”

Wood told BP that while he did not consider him and his wife to be “co-pastors,” he did consider her to be “one of our teaching pastors.”

In May 2021, Saddleback drew scrutiny from some within the SBC when the church ordained three women — Liz Puffer, Cynthia Petty and Katie Edwards. The ordinations come even though the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, the convention's official statement of beliefs, says that the "office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

Owen Strachan, a theology professor at Grace Bible Theological Seminary, was among the critics, arguing on social media that the ordinations were an example of “unbiblical developments” at Saddleback.

“Now is the time to leave and find a sound congregation. Do not delay. There is no spirit of competition in what I write here; what Saddleback is doing grieves me, and I have no doubt grieves many in the congregation,” posted Strachan on Facebook last year.

“Churches that affirm women pastors are opposing the Word of God, and opposing the Word of God means opposing God himself.”

Some wanted Saddleback, one of the convention's largest congregations, to be disfellowshipped as other churches have been kicked out of the SBC for ordaining women as pastors.

The SBC Credentials Committee, which determines if member churches are abiding by the convention's standards, announced at the SBC's Annual Meeting in June that it would delay a decision about whether to disfellowship Saddleback.

Committee Chair Linda Cooper said at the annual meeting that they were "not yet prepared to make a recommendation on Saddleback," recognizing there are "differing opinions regarding the intent of the office of pastor as stated in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000."

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